William M. Briggs

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Laudato Si: “The Curate’s Egg.” The Excellent Parts I. Guest Post by Bob Kurland

Bishop: "I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr Jones"; Curate: "Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!" "True Humility" by George du Maurier, originally published in Punch, 9 November 1895.

Bishop: “I’m afraid you’ve got a bad egg, Mr Jones”; Curate: “Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!”
“True Humility” by George du Maurier, originally published in Punch, 9 November 1895.

Bob Kurland provides us good start to our holiday weekend.

(1) He [the Pope] cannot speak as a private theologian but in his official capacity as vicar of Christ and head of the Church; (2) He must officially define a doctrine relating to faith or morals (unfortunately, the pope is not infallible when it comes to science, politics, weather, and the outcome of sporting events); and (3) The pronouncement must not be directed only to a single individual or particular group of people, but it must be promulgated for the benefit of the entire Church. —Patrick Madrid, The Papacy and Galileo.

Every judgment of conscience, be it right or wrong, be it about things evil in themselves or morally indifferent, is obligatory, in such wise that he who acts against his conscience always sins. —St. Thomas Aquinas. III Quodlibet 27.

There has been much heat and just a little light engendered by Pope Francis’s recent Encyclical, Laudato Si. Unlike many who have either praised or condemned Laudato Si, I have read the whole work, not once but three times. What I propose to do in this post is to list, with minimal comment, the sections that I find laudatory (that’s a pun, son) and then in a second post, the parts that I find questionable or objectionable. The Encyclical is 184 pages, so it will be necessary to focus selectively on the material.

The Excellent Parts

When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities—to offer just a few examples—it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected. 117

The sheer novelty involved in the emergence of a personal being within a material universe presupposes a direct action of God and a particular call to life and to relationship on the part of a Thou who addresses himself to another “thou.” 81.

I would stress the great importance of the family, which is “the place in which life—the gift of God—can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed, and can develop in accordance with what constitutes authentic human growth. In the face of the so-called culture of death, the family is the heart of the culture of life”. 213

Pope Francis calls us on us to reject consumerism, not to rely solely on technology, and to focus on that which has human values.

Furthermore, when media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously. In this context, the great sages of the past run the risk of going unheard amid the noise and distractions of an information overload. 47

“…while it is true that an unequal distribution of the population and of available resources creates obstacles to development and a sustainable use of the environment, it must nonetheless be recognized that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development.” Quoting the Pontifical Council for Justice Peace (483). 50

Each of us has his or her own personal identity and is capable of entering into dialogue with others and with God himself. Our capacity to reason, to develop arguments, to be inventive, to interpret reality and to create art, along with other not yet discovered capacities, are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology. 81

The basic problem goes even deeper: it is the way that humanity has taken up technology and its development according to an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm. This paradigm exalts the concept of a subject who, using logical and rational procedures, progressively approaches and gains control over an external object. This subject makes every effort to establish the scientific and experimental method, which in itself is already a technique of possession, mastery and transformation. It is as if the subject were to find itself in the presence of something formless, completely open to manipulation. 106

It cannot be maintained that empirical science provides a complete explanation of life, the interplay of all creatures and the whole of reality. This would be to breach the limits imposed by its own methodology. If we reason only within the confines of the latter, little room would be left for aesthetic sensibility, poetry, or even reason’s ability to grasp the ultimate meaning and purpose of things. 199

Pope Francis calls on us to enter into a relationship with Christ in the Eucharist.

It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation. Grace, which tends to manifest itself tangibly, found unsurpassable expression when God himself became man and gave himself as food for his creatures. The Lord, in the culmination of the mystery of the Incarnation, chose to reach our intimate depths through a fragment of matter. He comes not from above, but from within, he comes that we might find him in this world of ours. In the Eucharist, fullness is already achieved; it is the living centre of the universe, the overflowing core of love and of inexhaustible life. Joined to the incarnate Son, present in the Eucharist, the whole cosmos gives thanks to God. Indeed the Eucharist is itself an act of cosmic love. 236

The Parts That Are Excellent But Apt To Spoil

In the first sections of Laudato Si Pope Francis exhorts us to be one with nature and to realize God in His creation, emulating Saint Francis in his paean to Brother Sun and Sister Moon. There is much beautiful in these sections, and I emphasize with them. I recall the times more than 70 years ago when I lay underneath the big trees in Yosemite (as a summer Forest Service worker), or sat in the Griffith Planetarium marveling at the night sky in other times and other places.

He cites the works of past Popes who have been concerned about the environment, Paul VI, Saint John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and quotes at length the remarks of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew:

At the same time, Bartholomew has drawn attention to the ethical and spiritual roots of environmental problems, which require that we look for solutions not only in technology but in a change of humanity; otherwise we would be dealing merely with symptoms. He asks us to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which “entails learning to give, and not simply to give up. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God’s world needs…” Quoting from Lecture at the Monastery of Ulstein. 9

I can’t quarrel with any of those statements. What concerns me, however, is that they are adopted and corrupted by those who do not believe in a Creating God, but instead worship the creation—Gaia, Mother Earth. We see the farmers in San Joaquin Valley in California struggling to produce food–their water supply has been diverted to the San Francisco Bay to preserve (presumably) a small fish, the snail darter. One extreme faction of the Green worshipers of Mother Earth would have human reproduction minimized or eliminated. Thank God, Pope Francis spoke against that.

13 Comments

  1. Bob,

    What concerns me, however, is that they are adopted and corrupted by those who do not believe in a Creating God, but instead worship the creation—Gaia, Mother Earth.

    In what way or how are they adopted and corrupted by those who worship Gaia? What does it mean to worship Gaia? No third-party opinions and speculations please. Direct quotes from those so-called scientific pantheists would be great.

    (I enjoy reading various scholarly interpretations of some pantheistic Chinese classic texts such as Dao De Ching of Lao-Zi and I Ching. I would love to read those scientists’ views.)

    Let me post this Vatican Eco-Encyclical Video – http://bcove.me/fifjkhzp (via Sister J. on Facebook. She was a student in my department.)

  2. JH, you face me with an “embarrasse de riches” (sp?)
    Look at the following website
    http://www.gaiaonline.com/forum/morality-and-religion/population-control-vs-mass-murder/t.83866085_16/
    and the VHEMT “Voluntary Human Extinction Movement”
    http://ww.vhemt.org
    among many others.
    I already mention the snail darter and its effect on water for farmers in the San Joaquin Valley. For a further exposition, see
    http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970204731804574384731898375624

  3. JH, I guess I didn’t read your they are adopted to place nature as something to be worshipped, the creation rather than the Creator. And I’m sorry, JH, if you don’t see that in the pronouncements of the Greens I can’t help you.

  4. Here’s one more from the “World Pantheists”:
    http://www.pantheism.net/earth.htm
    here’s part of their belief statement:
    “We are an integral part of Nature, which we cherish, revere and preserve in all its magnificent beauty and diversity. We strive to live in harmony with Nature locally and globally. We acknowledge the inherent value of all life, human and non-human, and treat all living beings with compassion and respect.”
    Quite similar to sections in the Encyclical, and nothing to quarrel with, except in the implementation of those precepts.

  5. What is this bizarre fascination with “worshiping Gaia?” No one is doing that. What’s the point of this point? “Well, the other guy believes silly mythology too?” We don’t, so…

    JMJ

  6. You gotta wonder about a site that needs a captcha to gain entrance. Is the pass phrase “Bob sent me”?

  7. JH, looking again at your question (and I’m not sure I understand it completely) and reflecting on it and on the content of the websites both Sheri and I listed, I think I’ll stand by my position. Perhaps you can demonstrate to me that the extreme Greens, pantheists, etc. do NOT worship the creation, rather than the Creator. (Although I guess it’s not easy to prove a negative.)

  8. Bob,

    Your claim, your burden of proof! Not mine to prove or disprove.

    So the pantheism statements about natural are similar to those in the Encyclical. But this doesn’t imply the corruption in your claim. Those statements probably exit before the announcement of the Encyclical.

    Why would I want to prove or disprove that the extreme Greens, pantheists, etc. don’t worship/respect the nature? Anyway, is it wrong to want to respect and protect the integrity of the nature? Is there anything wrong with my pantheistic philosophical (not a religious) belief of non-omnipotent Dao/Tao? I respect the Catholic beliefs of my American family members. No tolerance required in my part, simply respect.

  9. BOB,
    New on here. Interesting take on Laudato Si.
    An interesting article which maybe you should have a look at.
    “The biocentric philosophy of the gaia hypothesis and the rise of global green religion”
    See it at :
    http://www.planetshifter.com/node/1724

    As a Catholic it certainly made my sparse hair stand on end, and explained a lot about the corruption of Rome by the global warming alarmists

    Keep the Faith

  10. I was thinking that when humanity came into existence and lived in the Garden of Eden, they had everything they would ever need and lived in harmony with nature. Yet, it was not enough. They disobeyed and were removed. Living in harmony with nature is not enough, it seems. (Much like Bob notes here: What concerns me, however, is that they are adopted and corrupted by those who do not believe in a Creating God.) Even when humans knew the creating God, living in harmony with nature did not yield utopia. They wanted more.

  11. Patrick, thanks for your comment and the link–substantiates my point about worship of the creation replacing worship of the Creator.
    JH: on reflection, I think you have a point. I’ve got the time/causal relations reversed. Pope Francis is following, not leading the extreme greens and pantheists. For example, he invited Naomi Klein, an extremist in anti-capitalism (nationalize the industries), anti-Israel, pro AGW, and very probably a pro-abortion advocate. Here’s a quote–population control relevant-from an interview:
    “Well, to be honest, for a long time, I just couldn’t see a future for a child that wasn’t some, like, Mad Max climate warrior thing. And, you know, I’d joke about it with my husband, like, you want to have a little climate warrior? [laughter] And it seems like that was the best thing I could imagine for a child. I couldn’t see a future that wasn’t just incredibly grim — maybe I’d seen too much sci-fi and read too much climate science. But I just couldn’t see it. ”
    So I wonder what sort of conversations Pope Francis and Naomi Klein will have about “be fruitful and multiply”…there are some inconsistencies with what is good in the Encyclical, arguing against population control, and inviting Naomi Klein to Rome.

  12. JH–I have no argument with those who choose to worship “Nature” as long as they don’t inflict their beliefs AND the consequences of those beliefs on me and the rest of the world. There is no way to argue someone into a belief in God or to make them disbelieve whatever objects of worship they might have. So I’m not trying to do that.
    Let me quote St. Augustine:
    “When I asked the earth, it responded: ‘I am not God’. When I asked the heavens, the sun, the moon, the stars, they said ‘Nor are we the God you seek’ “.. Confessions, 10.6
    “It was You, O Lord, Who created the heavens and earth. They are beautiful because You are beautiful. They are good because You are good. They have come to be because You are.” Confessions, 11.4

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